Oilers Management Making Big Mistake Passing on Chychrun

For over a calendar year now, many Edmonton Oilers fans have been practically begging general manager Ken Holland to make a move for Arizona Coyotes defenseman Jakob Chychrun. The 24-year-old blueliner has requested a trade out of the desert on more than one occasion, but to this point, a team has yet to bite on their heavy asking price, which is said to be a first-round pick and a top prospect, as well as a mid-level prospect and a pick in the third-to-fourth round range.

In one sense, you can understand why teams are showing hesitancy, given that Chychrun has battled plenty of injuries throughout his seven-year NHL career. On the other, you can grasp why a rebuilding team like the Coyotes continues to be patient, as he is one of the game’s better defenders when healthy. On top of that, he still has plenty of term, as his contract, which carries a very team-friendly $4.6 million cap hit, doesn’t expire until the end of the 2024-25 season.

Jakob Chychrun Arizona Coyotes
Jakob Chychrun, Arizona Coyotes (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

As far as suitors go, the Oilers are, or at the very least should be, at the top of the list. This is a team that, despite having Stanley Cup aspirations, carries a very underwhelming blue line. Darnell Nurse has struggled in the first year of his massive contract, while younger players such as Evan Bouchard and Philip Broberg have yet to make the big jump management was hoping to see.

That, in itself, should be enough for the Oilers to do everything in their power to land Chychrun, a player who can ease the burden on Nurse by lowering his minutes while also providing a significant impact both in the defensive and offensive zones. That doesn’t seem to be the case, however, as several analysts, most recently Daniel Nugent-Bowman of The Athletic, have reported that Holland and his staff are not interested at this time.

Chychrun Would Provide Massive Impact for Years

As mentioned, Chychrun is not only a top-end defenseman when healthy, but he has term on a very good contract. That deal, in essence, is why the Coyotes are demanding so much when it comes to a return. Is it a lot to give up for the Oilers? Yes, it is. But with Connor McDavid having just three additional seasons remaining on his deal and Leon Draisaitl having just two, this team doesn’t have as much time as some may think when it comes to waiting for a top prospect such as Broberg on the back end or Dylan Holloway up front to reach their full potential.

On top of that, as promising as both Broberg and Holloway seem to be, there are no guarantees that they’ll turn into the players that fans and the organization are hoping for. With Chychrun, you already know what you are getting, which is a point-producing defenseman who, despite some recent reports, is very solid in his own end.

It’s also worth noting when it comes to the heavy asking price is the fact that instead of Chychrun, the Oilers are said to be highly interested in Columbus Blue Jackets defenseman Vladislav Gavrikov. This is a player who doesn’t provide a ton of offense but, like Chychrun, is a left-handed shot who defends very well.

Vladislav Gavrikov Columbus Blue Jackets
Vladislav Gavrikov, Columbus Blue Jackets (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

The 27-year-old Gavrikov would be a rental if picked up by the Oilers, as he is in the final year of a deal that carries a $2.8 million cap hit. That number is very appealing for a cap-strapped team such as the Oilers. The issue, however, is that the asking price, while not as steep as Chychrun’s, remains very high.

As mentioned days ago, the asking price for Gavrikov is said to be a first-round pick, as well as either a third or a fourth. Again, by no means is it as steep as Chychrun’s, but he would more than likely only be around for the remainder of the season before heading elsewhere in free agency.

What this would mean is that if the Oilers fail to win the Stanley Cup this season, they would risk losing Gavrikov for nothing in return and would once again be in the market for a defenseman. That wouldn’t be an issue with Chychrun, as they would have two more kicks at the can with him on his current deal.

Related: 3 Reasons Oilers Top 4 Is Miles Better Than the Maple Leafs’ Core

On top of that, while Gavrikov is a solid player, he is far from the dominant force Chychrun has proven to be when healthy. This is a player who, on a very weak roster just two seasons ago, led all defensemen with 18 goals in just 56 games while also registering 41 points. He regressed plenty during an injury-riddled 2021-22 campaign, but he’s healthy once again in 2022-23 and is back to producing at a high level.

As a team in 2022-23, the Coyotes have struggled to score. At the time of this article, they rank 26th in the NHL with an average of 2.74 goals per game. Despite that lack of scoring, however, Chychrun has been able to produce in a big way since making his season debut a month ago, as he has three goals and 13 points in 15 outings. He’s also averaged over 22 minutes of ice time in those 15 contests. And despite playing on a team that’s getting significantly outscored this season, he has a plus/minus of plus-8.

What that heavy ice time shows is Chychrun isn’t the one trick pony some are suggesting. This is a player who can play in any and all situations, whether up or down a goal late in a game. Having him as an option would be huge for Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft, who far too often has had forced to watch Nurse turn pucks over in crucial situations this season. This isn’t all to the fault of the Oilers’ highest-paid defenseman, as he is simply being asked to do too much due to his team’s weakness on the back end.

Philip Broberg Edmonton Oilers
Philip Broberg, Edmonton Oilers (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

As for the prospect that the Oilers would be parting ways with, it seems more likely that Broberg would be the man heading out rather than Holloway, which may not be as big of a blow as some seem to think. While he has shown glimpses of potential, he has by no means dominated in the American Hockey League and has been a non-factor during his 11 games with the big club this season.

Many will point to the fact that Broberg is just 21 years old and say he still has plenty of room to grow. That certainly is a fair suggestion, but if he had the elite potential some believe he does, he should, at the very least, be locked into a top-six role with the Oilers right now, which simply isn’t the case. Moritz Seider, for example, went just two picks ahead of Broberg in the 2019 draft and was able to establish himself as a star talent a season ago. As time passes, it appears less and less likely that the Oilers’ Swedish prospect will ever turn into a top-pairing defenseman at the NHL level, something Chychrun already is.

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As for the first-round pick that the Oilers would have to part ways with, it again isn’t as big a deal as some are suggesting. Assuming this team picks things up in the second half, this selection won’t be anywhere near the top 10. Yes, the upcoming draft is said to be extremely deep, but with where the Oilers are selecting, the player they would grab will more than likely be years away from making an impact. By the time he is ready, McDavid and Draisaitl could already be out the door.

Oilers’ Time to Make a Big Move Is Now

For far too long, this organization has told fans to be patient. And for many years, they were just that. However, that time has passed, and they are eager to watch a team that has the best two players in the world hoist the Stanley Cup. Up front, they have the talent to do so, but this current blue line isn’t built to hold up against some of the league’s best. Adding Chychrun, however, may prove to be enough, and this Oilers management needs to strongly reconsider bringing him in before he is shipped off elsewhere.

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